Using organoids – mini lab-grown tissues – to study the role of the placental connection between mother and foetus in immunity to infections
Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infections don’t usually cause trouble in healthy adults. But in pregnant women, they can prove fatal for the foetus. The physical interface between mother and foetus, the placenta, can help defend against infection. Researchers investigate how using organoids, lab-grown tissues developed from human placenta, which mimic the trophoblast, which originates from the embryo and the decidua, which originates from the mother – both structures implicated in immunity. Trophoblast organoids (TOs) and decidua organoids (DOs, pictured, using fluorescence microscopy) both release immune factors even in the absence of infection, with TOs releasing an antiviral chemical. Infecting both types of organoid with fluorescently-tagged HCMV, revealed DOs had high levels of infection while TOs didn't. Infecting the organoids grown together showed that chemicals from TOs reduced HCMV levels in the DOs. These organoids can help future studies into maternal-foetal infections.
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